Barre60 at Barre Tech in Del Ray, Alexandria, VA
Tuesday, June 9th at 9:30am
Instructor: Amy (owner?)
5 people in class – at least 2 brand new, possibly 3
I arrive 15 minutes early, as the website instructs. Upon arrival, I run into M, a fitness friend of mine, and am immediately happier to be taking class with someone I know.
Note: My experience is already better because I sense even the tiniest bit of camaraderie. I am not unique in this, and I think it is an important point for instructors everywhere. How do we create an immediate sense of community for someone new?
The “urban chic” appearance of Barre Tech is appealing, and inviting, and clean. And the girls waiting are friendly enough.
M and I tell Amy that we’re new. Amy says something positive – like “great!” or “cool,” except I’m guessing not “cool” because she appeared about mid-20s, and I think only 40-somethings say “cool” anymore. Actually, maybe just me and Abed from Community.
Amy instructs us to get some equipment and heads to the front of the room. She launches into a very lengthy description of what we can expect. Quite literally a play by play…
She is speaking so quickly, as if from a script. It seems like she has introduced class the same exact way 7000 times. Bueller…? Bueller…?
Dancer (or Francophile) snobbery: She pronounces the “s” in port de bras.
Multiple times. I double-checked this with M after class, to be sure I heard her correctly. I did.
Why does this matter? For me, it undermined her credibility as a dancer. “Port de bras” literally translates from French (the official language of ballet) to mean “carriage of the arms.” Any dancer with basic ballet training knows this term and how to pronounce it properly.
Amy was dressed in the essence of what I would expect from a barre instructor. No distracting elements and proper coverage. Her hair is neat. Some of you who know me might be thinking that I would be better served spending my time you-tubing how to French braid my own head of hair rather than writing this blog. Touche.
Amy also looked like a dancer in many ways, which I found comforting, like her appearance made her competent.
Note: I am not saying to judge like this is fair. I’m saying to judge on appearances is human. And, apparently, owl.
Aaaaand… we’re off! Like a race. Really. I felt like we were on a game show working against a clock for some prize.
Amy performed every warm up exercise with her back to us, all of us facing the mirror together, holding 1-2 lb weights. This is clearly a trend in women’s fitness right now – high reps, low weights. I suggest everyone reading this blog ask Elizabeth how she feels about light weight, high rep training.
The BarreTech website tells me:
The workout is such a unique blend of sciences that your body will experience a “wake up call.”
I would have liked to have learned more about that unique blend of sciences. I wanted to ask “Why?” about 20 different exercises we did in class.
The website also pointed out:
The classes are limited to 12 people or less, so there is plenty of opportunity for the teacher to monitor you in class for the first time. The teacher will also review modifications with you if needed and taking a break occasionally is okay.
Which is especially ironic because both M and I were shocked at how few modifications were offered to us throughout class. The class that the website suggests is the best class for beginners. The class in which we both identified ourselves as beginners.
I am sweating, as I do, fewer than ten minutes into class. Amy appears effortless. Amy also appears to have no idea we are in the room. In true dancer fashion, she is fixated on her own appearance in the mirrors.
Except, she’s not the dancer in the room. She’s the teacher. She should be watching us. Observing, connecting, correcting, praising… at minimum – NOTICING us.
I am unpleasantly surprised at how little the music has to do with class. Amy moves us to the beat, but has no interest in phrasing. I expected a barre workout to feel like a dancer’s workout. But dancers work in counts of eight. (Or 1,2,3 1,2,3 for a waltz, or a five beat if performing a jazzy little number to Dave Brubecks’s Take Five.)
Amy has no interest in the eight count. Sometimes we do ten reps, or 20, or 35.
We move to the barre where we fly through sequences, Amy talking, talking, talking. I have no doubt she had some valuable things to say, but I couldn’t find them. There was no way to discern the important information within the barrage of repetitive cues.
Imagine a barrage of information coming at you in 4/4 time, with a snap on every beat as she delivers information in a staccato speaking voice whilst walking around the room.
However, she at least twice comes to correct my form manually – and I love her for it. She actually touches me. With authority.
Best part of class. Wish it happened more. And lasted longer.
Note: We instructors have all felt the squeeze when you need to transition the class with the next cue, but instead you wish you could stay with one person and give them more direction, support, education, etc. Let’s all agree to sloooooow down. To see our classes more and say less. So when we do talk, people’s brains aren’t already full. Amy, baby, take your time.
Worst part of class:
I reenacted this in my home, because a written description couldn’t possibly illustrate properly. The musical selection is exactly what was playing, and my demonstration includes an approximation of the look I gave M when I realized this wasn’t Amy’s attempt to be cheeky and make us laugh. This was a “real” sequence she expected us to complete, about 100 reps long, give or take.
Ok, the second best part of class was the end. Not just because it was over.
BarreTech has a lovely “calling card.” At the end of class, Amy passed out chilled peppermint oiled cloths, instructed us to use them on our necks, collarbone, faces, anywhere that would help us feel fresh and invigorated. Then, she sang the praises of peppermint oil as a natural cleaner and instructed us to use the cloth to wipe down our mat once we were done delicately patting our sweaty brows.
Brilliant! I should have an ending for this review as memorable and enticing as those refreshing cooling cloths.
Alas, I do not.
I have taken enough of your time today. Tune in next week when I review Yoga at JOURNEYoga in Arlington, brought to you by Bob Marley and the color green.
8 thoughts on “ClassPass Experiment: Barre 60”
Re: Class Pass Experiment
Informative and most entertaining. I particularly like the use of audio and video augmentation. Writer appears to know of which she speaks. The class does not sound cool but I think the writer is definitely cool!
Very interesting review. I appreciated your comments on how the website suggested that they limited the number of class participants because they wanted to make sure that the instructor could monitor the students.
As a class participant, I often think to myself, “Am I doing this right? It feels wrong. But I’m SURE that if I were doing it wrong the instructor would say something, right? Well, she isn’t saying anything so it must be fine.”
Then you mentioned that she was just focusing on herself in the mirror. Ironically, if you really care about your students you will monitor/critique because it helps them get more from the workout and decrease likelihood of injury.
Maybe this is cultural. NPR had a report about how in many Asian classrooms, the teachers are much more willing to tell a student that he or she is wrong because they don’t look at being wrong as a failure, just an area that they need to work on. So kids at a young age appreciate the opportunity to risk, fail, and “figure things out on their own”. There is no stigma attached to making a mistake. While in our culture, it is hard to tell a kid that he or she is “WRONG”, so we say, “well, that is a different answer than the one I was expecting, but I guess you could argue that 2+2=5.”
Please tell me I’m wrong. All the time. Don’t say, “Joey, you are punching from your chest instead of your guard. Even though that is not how we were trained to do it I respect your decision to be different.”
Joey – I was thinking about this a lot today. I was expecting that I might get some feedback from people who say they don’t want to be corrected. Or from instructors who say they don’t give corrections bc they don’t want to offend. And this could likely be a whole separate blog post… but I think instructors are to blame, in part. I think when the “aerobics” industry was born, instructors either didn’t have the expertise or didn’t trust themselves enough to make corrections. They thought they just needed to provide music and a follow the leader type workout. Now, all these years later, many feel a precedent has been set that some people go to class to be anonymous and not be singled out. And many instructors are far too happy to oblige. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts, but for now, I’ll say, Joey – keep your guard up. And don’t extend your left arm to hook. You open your elbow too much on that side 😉
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Fix my junk too when you have the time please, Kate! I’m so grateful for the constructive help Joey’s taken time to give me too. 😄
Laura – I’ll have eyeballs on ya every time 😉
Love this post! Great writing–I felt like I was there. In regards to Joey’s comment, I totally get what you’re saying. I was a teacher for 3 years and we literally couldn’t tell a student that the answer was wrong we had to somehow reword it to make it right or at least a thoughtful answer. So frustrating!!
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Rachael – more on this topic in my new post!